The wedding rehearsal is more than just a reason to gather for another party. Done well, it can pave the way for a smooth wedding ceremony. If you skip it or race through it thinking the rehearsal dinner is the main event, you run the risk of a disorganized jumble that will stress you out and confuse the guests.
If you don’t have a wedding planner or celebrant available to take you through the rehearsal, consider the following:
1. The bride and groom should talk through the ceremony from beginning to end WELL BEFORE the big day. There will likely be a few “drafts” of the plan, so be sure to discuss this often. Also, be sure to discuss this at length with whomever is performing your ceremony. Once the sequence of the ceremony is set (procession order, readings, music, vows), bring your families and bridal party into the discussion.
2. Make a list of any “props” you’ll need for the ceremony. Do you want flowers there? Will you use an aisle runner? Do you need candles for any part of your ceremony, or a glass to break? You may also want to give out programs and birdseed or bubbles for the guests. After you make of list of these items, decide who will be responsible for getting them there and packing them up afterward.
3. Plan to go through the ceremony at least once ON LOCATION. If you don’t have a wedding planner or celebrant available for the rehearsal, designate someone to be in charge of the run-through, using your pre-prepared schedule.
4. Understand that the procession includes the parents of the bride and groom. If the bride’s father is escorting her, who will seat Mom? How will you handle seating when parents are divorced and/or remarried? Troubleshoot potential “situations” ahead of time, and then rehearse it.
5. Will your groomsmen arrive early with the groom? If so, where will they go? What is their role? Typically, the best man hangs out with the groom behind the scenes, and the others show guests to their seats.
6. Are you planning a “first look” moment between bride and groom? I don’t really get this, but it’s become a popular photo op. To me, there’s nothing quite so special as seeing the look on a groom’s face when the bride comes down the aisle. Think about this though, and plan it out logistically.
7. Figure out where everyone in the bridal party will sit or stand, and will they sit or stand? Will the bride and groom sit or stand? Where will family members be seated? Make sure the groomsmen are aware of their responsibilities when it comes to seating the guests. Traditionally, the bride’s immediate family sits on the left (facing the altar or officiant) and the groom’s immediate family sits on the right. If seats will be “saved,” decide ahead of time how that will work.
8. After going through each part of the ceremony at least twice, remember to rehearse the exit. Also plan out if and where the bride and groom will receive guests immediately following the ceremony. Decide too whether the bridal party and parents will be a part of this receiving line. Guests like to have a quick moment with the bride and groom immediately following the ceremony.
9. Programs are a nice touch and easy to print up with today’s desktop technology. Your program might include the names of your entire bridal party (including parents), and those who contribute to the ceremony by doing readings, playing music or singing. A simple “order of the ceremony” may also be included (readings, vows, songs, etc.).
10. Finally, if you do have live music of any kind (pianist, vocalist or a quarter), request that they attend the rehearsal, even if they don’t play songs all the way through, they need to be aware of cues and special instructions. They may charge more for this, but it’s worth it.
Remember, just like most things in life, practice makes perfect.